Critical Moments: Next Stop, Vegas

by in Shows, November 1st, 2010
Although "his plating could use a few more contemporary touches," Chef Tsai edged Chef Canora into second place this week.

Next Iron Chef judge Simon Majumdar joins us on the FN Dish each week to share his insider’s take on what went down Sunday night.

There is only so far that enthusiasm, tenacity and a good spirit will get you in a competition such as The Next Iron Chef. To date, Chef Chauhan had showed those qualities in abundance. She had also shown a great deal of culinary talent. However, as we reached the midway point on the road to selecting a new incumbent for Kitchen Stadium, the gap in technical skill between her and her rivals became more apparent.

The Chairman’s challenge, to create an American menu from all four points of the compass, was the toughest yet and the stakes were raised even higher when Alton informed the surviving six that the reward for pleasing the judges was a trip to America’s new dining wonderland, Las Vegas. It was obvious, from their expressions, that no one wanted to be the one to miss out on the party.

Iron Chef Jose Garces, stepping in as a guest judge, offered a fresh new view on our competitors. But, even the valid claim that some of his plating could use a few more contemporary touches, did not dissuade me from making Chef Tsai my winner for a second time in the competition. In the end, taste won out and his outstanding array of dishes just pushed the ever-improving Chef Canora into second place.

Chef Forgione, could and possibly should have gone home for sending out a desiccated piece of halibut, that would surely never have been allowed to leave his restaurant kitchen, to the three people who could change his life. The judges were not unanimous, but Chef Chauhan’s “Luau in an Avocado Cup” convinced two out of the three of us that this ebullient chef’s journey had reached its natural conclusion.

Look inside Chef Chauhan’s Next Iron Chef journal and flip through our behind-the-scenes gallery from Episode 5.

More about Simon Majumdar:
Simon’s Website
Simon’s book, Eat My Globe
Follow @SimonMajumdar on Twitter

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Comments (57)

  1. Sonia says:

    Do you know "tony G facebook" what does obnoxious and self centered means? Check your Dictionary if you have one. Or maybe you were referring to Chef Canora instead.

  2. James says:

    I am pleased (and relieved) to read Simon’s endorsement of Chef Tsai in this post, as the editing seems to have favored Chef Canora so strongly. By that I mean Canora’s comments are always his general, positive statements, and Tsai’s comments are out-of-context asides. I’ve watched Ming for years, and he just isn’t as snippy as you seem to be trying to make him look, and I’m sure Canora has his uptight moments, too. Be fair, FN editors.

    As viewers, we don’t taste the food. We just see it.

    And Chef Tsai’s dishes are beautiful to look at. Which is what we are doing out here in the heartland. He is eloquent and describes the flavors for us viewers, which is most welcome, rather than merely stating what worked or didn’t in the dish (are you listening, Donatella?!).

    FN has made Canora seem warm. But more Italian food from an Iron Chef? Been there, done that. Chef Tsai would take Iron Chef into new, wonderful-to-watch territory.

    • Lehua says:

      I completely agree with the Italian been there, done that!! Go Chef Tsai!

    • ces says:

      I absolutely agree with you James. Enough of Italian chefs. I notice that Donatella seems to be biased towards Italian chefs which is obvious because she is Italian so he palate leans more towards Italian dishes. There should be more diversity among the judges at FN. Chef Tsai's dishes are simply about tastewhich in the end is what simmply matters.

  3. donna thomas says:

    i'm with you Sonia. Chef TSai has been nothing but a good sport. He was right to be annoyed with Canora's jockying for position over his secret ingredient potato challenge dish.

    even so, Chef Tsai voted for Canora's dish. Canora has shown no grace at all!

    Tsai is the best chance for Kitchen Stadium to welcome another great Iron Chef.

  4. M&M says:

    I know the meaning of those words and Chef Tsai is truly obnoxious, and very full of himself. He needs to go home because that attitude is not acceptable to the viewing public.

    I cannot stand looking at him and whenever he comes on I change the channel. He is soooooooooooooooooo annoying!!! Feels like if he knows everything else and that none of the other chefs are as good as he THINKS he is.

    Maybe you will publish this and maybe you won't but at least you would have read it as a true comment.

    • Jovita Mackie says:

      Obnoxious attitude? He is the most humble chef around. We call that attitude wisdom, but then there's always individuals who's got their own prejudice (like you).
      We are talking about talent in cooking, not what they look like and judging should not be personal.

    • dine says:

      I have been watching the Iron Chef and havent seen any actions or attitudes of Ming Tsai that can be regarded as truly obnoxious…He is confident I should say with how he carries himself and his cooking..He seems just enjoying what he does and loves the competition, thats whats good about it..You seem to be prejudice and very personal towards him..You just have to chill and relax when watching tv, dont be carried away with your emotions..After all its just a show..Im sure you are betting on someone else thats why you get annoyed with Ming Tsai.

    • bobby_fillet says:

      Obnoxious isn't the word I would use although I do agree that he has a large amount of smugness and arrogance to him. Sometimes he cooks great but other times he has stunk up the kitchen. Obviously he has a lot of fans on here and I don't doubt that he would make a good Iron Chef if he isn't too arrogant to listen to the judges comments. The one dish he made with 50 ingredients was obviously too much. I agree that he may be the best of the lot but if he doesn't change his arrogant ways, I won't watch an Iron Chef episode with him in it.

      • Sherry says:

        I don't know where you and chef beth (the poster below you) get the feeling or the idea that Tsai and Forgione were arrogant and full of themselves. I like both Chef Tsai and Forgione as well as Chef Tio very much because I think they are great talented chefs and are pretty humble. When told in the second episode that he had done too much for his dishes, Tsai said he agreed and did not become defensive. When told in the latest episode he needed to update his plating to a more contemporary style, he quietly nodded his head and said OK. He didn't argue. Now I would like to know if the frosted plate and the red remekin that Tsai used were outdated, what were they doing in the TNIC kitchen? Unless Chef Tsai brought his own plates to the competition??? As almost everyone here had said, the one that was arrogant and self-serving was clearly Chef Canora. He seemed to be talented, but I just don't like his TV persona.

    • chef beth says:

      where do you get that Chef Tsai is obnoxious and full of himself, there is no way he is either of those. I think you just might be a little racist. Canora and Forgione are the ones that are obnoxious and annoying they both should have gone home before now. I pray Forgione does not get Iron Chef just because big daddy Forgione is a high and mighty big deal chef.

  5. stephanie says:

    Can't believe that some of you are watching the same Ming Tsai that has East meets West on PBS. He is so humble and loving when his parents are guest chefs and he has great rapport with other guest chefs. I think he is terrific and admire his desire to prove he still has "game". Most people who have made it as far as he has in their professions would sit back and rest on their laurels and not subject themselves to the criticism and rivalry–he certainly isn't doing it for the money or the fame. GO MING!!!!

    • bobby_fillet says:

      Never watched East meets West so am just judging on what I see on this show. Maybe he had a better personality on that show and the editors are cutting it out on this show.

  6. donna thomas says:

    As I watch the rivals, Ming Tsai, alone, shows the heart of an Iron Chef.

    While the others worry, and complain about the challenges of the competition, Ming just smiles with anticipation. He's having a good time, sharpening his skill set, and growing with every challenge.

    He has been cooking his heart out from the very beginning, and I believe he will be The Next Iron Chef!

  7. Leti says:

    I understand all of the posts regarding Chef Canora. His arrogant and self-centered demeanor leaves alot to be desired. These qualities are not Iron Chef material. All of the other remaining chefs show good technique and skill, yet Chef Ming Tsai has shown that he is more than qualified to be an Iron Chef.

  8. Gsj528 says:

    Chef canora rocks.

    • luvcookin says:

      Canora is a jerk. When the contestants judge each other, Canora has two standards for judging, one for Chef Tsai and one for everyone else. He sees Chef Tsai as a threat and will never judge him fairly. I have absolutely no respect for Canora. Chef Tsai, on the other hand, has actually competed on ICA and beat Bobby Flay. Chef Tsai for the win!

    • Elaine says:

      lets start by giving COOK Canora, his proper title; since he has nothing to do with being a CHEF. His lack of professionalism, and technique proof he is not IC worthy. I will definitely not watch the show if he wins.

  9. Angela says:

    I had the good fortune to go to Chef Tsai's restaurant in April and the food was wonderful. It was one of the best meals I've ever had. He came over to the table next to us to talk with some of this regular customers and he was so nice and down-to-earth. I was so excited to see he was competing on Next Iron Chef. Good luck Chef Tsai!

    • bobby_fillet says:

      He didn't talk to you? Only his regular customers? Hmmmmm………… A great chef would make the rounds and chat with everyone.

      • Angela says:

        Oh, it wasn't like that at all. :) I'm shy, so I didn't make eye contact with him. I'm sure he would have talked to me if I had wanted to say hello. Plus, every table in the restaurant was full, so I don't think he would have been able to talk to everyone.

  10. Angie says:

    "TonyG" …what a hoot… who are you referring to ? Did you mean Canora as the obnoxious arrogant mean small heart selfish cook?

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